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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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April 26,1977

Posted 04-24-2018 at 07:10 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 05-21-2018 at 06:48 AM by TommyJohn

April 26,1977
vs. Detroit Tigers
at Tiger Stadium

The home opener win against Boston is the first of five straight for the White Sox, including three straight from the Blue Jays at Comiskey. Richie Zisk swings a hot bat, clubbing five home runs in the early going as the surprising Sox run their record to 9-5.

The two game miniseries against the Tigers in Detroit offered fans a preview of what was to come in the season of '77.

The first game pitted Ken Brett against Dave Rozema. Richie Zisk gave Brett an early lead in the top of the 2nd when he swatted the first pitch he saw from Rozema for his 6th home run of the young season.

The lead lasted until the bottom of the 4th, when the Tigers hammered Brett for 6 runs. The big blows were dealt by Tom Veryzer, who hammered a two run double, and Ron Le Flore, whose double scored Veryzer.

Rozema coasted with the lead for six innings, then gave up a run in the 7th to make it 6-2. Still, he had Sox bats quieted most of the game and was working his way towards a complete game win.

In April of 1976, this game was over. The score may as well have been 60-2 for all the chance that the Sox had of mounting a comeback. But this was a new year and a different team.

The Sox came storming back in the 8th, with a little help from Tiger pitching. Zisk started it when he doubled with two on, scoring Alan Bannister. That finished Rozema, and John Hiller came on and walked Jim Spencer to load the bases. Hiller bore down and whiffed Lamar Johnson, then walked both Eric Soderholm and Chet Lemon to force in two runs, and suddenly it was a one run game. Ralph Garr singled to tie the game, but Eric Soderholm was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

The game slogged on until the 12th, when Mark Wagner of the Tigers hit a one out single off Sox reliever and ex-Tiger Lerrin LaGrow. One out later Ben Olglivie smashed a double that looked like it would end the game. Chet Lemon chased it down, fired a rope to Alan Bannister who turned and gunned it to Jim Essian, who was blocking the plate with his foot. A charging Wagner slid in ahead of the throw, bounced off Essian's foot, and was called safe. However, Wagner turned and scrambled back towards the plate to touch it and Essian leaned over and tagged him. The plate umpire reversed his call and motioned Wagner out.

The fans booed loudly and Tiger manager Ralph Houk protested vigorously. So did Wagner, who insisted that he touched the plate but was pushed off by Essian, which doesn't explain why he went back towards it, when he could have easily just walked away and celebrated the win. Essian, for his part, conceded that Wagner had beaten the throw.

Eric Soderholm broke the tie in the 13th with a home run blast, his 4th of the year. The Tigers came back and tied it in their half with a one out, run scoring single by Phil Mankowski. Further damage was avoided when Tiger catcher Bruce Kimm was thrown out trying to get from 1st to 3rd on the play. LaGrow then retired Tom Veryzer to end the inning.

The Sox broke through again in the top of the 14th. Taking no chances, they exploded for three runs. The first came in when Zisk singled with two on to break the tie. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Tiger pitcher Steve Foucault attempted to swing the pendulum back in the Tigers' favor by intentionally walking Jim Spencer to load the bases for Lamar Johnson. This backfired when Foucault threw a wild pitch, moving batters up one base and scoring Orta. Johnson then walked and Soderholm grounded into a fielder's choice with Zisk scoring.

LaGrow went out for his 6th inning of work and easily retired the Tigers to nail down the 10-7 win. Everything clicked for the Sox in this game-they hit on all cylinders, got some great pitching, took advantage of the other team's mistakes and the usually suspect defense rose to the occasion and executed a brilliant play at a crucial moment with the game in the balance.

The next night the Sox clubbed five home runs off Tiger pitching, with Zisk, Soderholm, Chet Lemon, Oscar Gamble and Royle Stillman all going deep. At one point they were trailing in the game 7-3 and stormed back once again to tie the game at 7. The Tigers ultimately prevailed by a 10-9 score. The loss put the Sox at 10-6. Still, it was apparent that the team was shaping up to be something special.

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